Exterior Paint Q+A

This past month, we had our exterior brick painted with Romabio Mineral Paint. We hired Classic Finishes (based in Louisville, Kentucky) to come do the job since they are experts in this type of paint. I first heard of them from Young House Love and have been wanting to try out this non-toxic, environmentally friendly mineral paint ever since.

Before I share full photos of our exterior, our home needs a LOT of landscaping work, which will take some time. So in the meantime I wanted to pop in and share a Q+A with Lance (and there are a couple of questions for me at the end too) about the product we used, maintenance and application in case you are interested in DIYing your own exterior (which is totally doable for smaller homes especially and can save thousands of dollars).

I will say before I get started that I’m THRILLED with the results. It’s a beautiful matte finish, super durable and really makes the natural pattern and texture of our 1990s brick pop in a fresh new way.

OK, let’s jump into the Q+A with Lance from Classic Finishes!

Q: How long does Masonry Flat (“brick paint”) last?

As a company, Classic Finishes leans heavily on Romabio’s Masonry Flat for its longevity and aesthetic. When applied properly, Romabio offers a 20-year warranty. If that isn’t impressive enough, think about the three main reasons you would need to repaint your brick.

1. The paint is chipping and peeling. Since Masonry Flat is a mineral-based paint, it takes on the same properties as brick itself. Once cured, Masonry Flat both has the hardness and breathability of brick itself. It’s like painting brick with brick, so the durability and longevity is 20 years at a minimum.

2. It loses its sheen. Because Masonry Flat is matte, there is no risk of the sheen losing its luster. Only when you use a shiny plastic-looking latex is this a risk. Masonry Flat, however, has the ability to withstand all the elements: wind, rain, direct sun, and even ice.

3. The color fades and/or isn’t desirable anymore. With mineral-based pigments, a colorful Romabio Masonry Flat will hold its color as good or better than comparable high-end latex colors. Whites, on the other hand, have no risk of fading. Looking for a timeless color? One of our clients, Young House Love, partnered with Romabio and curated a savvy color collection. You can easily acquire samples of their colors from Amazon. And they offer free nationwide shipping.

Q: Can you please link the exact paint you used?

Romabio Masonry Flat in Richmond White

Q: What is the upkeep required for painted brick?

The Masonry Flat finish is truly one of the easiest options when it comes to upkeep. If the brick becomes dirty, use a non-abrasive household cleaner (like Simple Green). If it doesn’t wipe off at first, use mild scrubbing with a kitchen pad. Need a quick touch up? The stored paint can last for years to come when stored properly. Due to its beautiful matte finish, harsher stains will require a scrub and touch-up; however, Masonry Flat’s 20-year guarantee stands strong.

Q: Can you explain the difference between Masonry Flat and Limewash? And, how do the costs compare?

The Romabio lineup includes Masonry Flat and Limewash. The Masonry Flat should be used for a solid/opaque painted brick finish (a solid color from tip to tail.)  Romabio’s Limewash, on the contrary, should be used to create a weathered/aged brick finish. Instead of a monolithic look, the limewash technique creates a 50-year-old weathered look. You can see the difference here, here, and here. See more projects on Classic Finishes’ Instagram.

Regarding the application differences:

Masonry Flat can be applied by any skilled painter or contractor. And, this spring we’ll share a blog post equipping DIYers and interested pros with exactly what they need to update their brick with Masonry Flat.

Limewashes, however, take a sense of aesthetic and significant experience with the various ages and composition of a variety of bricks.

It may be true that a DIYer can technically follow the manufacturer’s directions and get favorable results on smaller project like a fireplace, but when it comes to limewash and distressing for large scale projects, there is a marked difference between an experienced pro and a weekend warrior. When you hire Classic Finishes, you get years of experience and the artisan craftsmanship that makes Classic Finishes a time-tested company.

Our experience and expertise takes us across the USA as the demand for these signature finishes calls us farther from our home base in Louisville, Kentucky. We do service Masonry Flat projects locally in Louisville, but gladly refer interested out of town clients to Romabio’s find a pro form since we have have reserved our limited travel schedule for our growing list of artisan finishes.

Q. What is the easiest way to get a quote from Classic Finishes?

If you’re interested in one of our specialty finishes (limewash, lime slurry, and decorative plaster finishes for fireplaces, hood vents, showers, etc.), please fill out this form on our website.

As we travel nationwide to meet the growing demand for these finishes, we ask for your patience. We will fulfill your request as promptly as possible.

For all Masonry Flat requests (other than those in Louisville, Kentucky), please see Romabio’s website to help you find a pro in your area. We realize we can’t be everywhere at once, so our Masonry Flat projects are limited to Louisville; however, work hard to promote a greater awareness to mineral-based finishes like these including Masonry Flat. It was exciting finding a like-minded individual with a powerful platform in Elsie and A Beautiful Mess. Because this family of products is safer, more beautiful, and more sustainable, we’ve become advocates for these products and their various manufacturers.

Q: I heard Elsie mention that this paint is non-toxic and environmentally friendly. Can you give me more information?

The primary ingredient in masonry flat is a natural resource—limestone. And, scientists suggest that 1/3 of the earth’s crust is limestone. So, we can more than confidently suggest this product is ultra-sustainable, especially when compared to both latex and acrylics that are derived from petroleum. Choosing Masonry Flat and Limewash is choosing freedom from petroleum products. Romabio is a strong advocate for sustainability and responsibility. They proudly share the following credentials and certifications here.

Q: Can you tell us a quick version of how you apply this paint?

This product applies similar to paint but with has a few caveats.
1. Dilute the Masonry Flat (Romabio ships a concentrate in an effort to shrink their carbon footprint).
2. Dampen the brick with a spray nozzle attached to a garden hose.
3. Brush, roll, or spray the product on (the key here is to get the paint on the brick and into the mortar joints).
4. Let dry.
5. Repeat for a second coat.

Admire your “new” home 🙂

Q: What is the average cost for painting a house?

We believe a professional painting contractor will charge somewhere between $2-$3 per square foot to cover labor, materials, and their operating costs. This fluctuates across the nation for obvious reasons. Like any general home improvement, we suggest our clients get three quotes and favor the middle price if all are equally qualified. Please don’t hesitate to ask for referrals and addresses of former projects. Our previous clients seldom mind potential clients driving by to see their paint job they are extremely proud about. Most of our business comes from referrals. Any good contractor experiences the same.

Q: If I have a smaller home how realistic is it for me to paint my own brick?

If you have a ranch or a low profile home with brick surfaces no taller than 15 feet, then an able-bodied DIYer can tackle an exterior project over a few weekends. Larger projects, and especially two-story homes, are best left to the pros who are skilled with sprayers and complex ladder moves—no paint job is worth an injury.

Q: Does painting your home increase or decrease the value?

Every realtor talks about curb appeal. A beautifully painted brick home sets itself apart in any neighborhood as one of the prettiest homes on the block.

Q: Is this the same paint John + Sherry (Young House Love) used?

Yes! Same product and same color: Richmond White. John and Sherry connected Elsie with us because they were so pleased with our work and the finished product. Thanks YHL! Read about our project with them here.

Q: Can you use this type of paint on a brick fireplace?

Masonry Flat is perfect for gas fireplaces. If it is wood burning, however, so a low sheen oil-based paint would be a better fit. Wood-burning fireplaces create more smoke and carry a risk of staining. Because it is an interior project, you won’t need the strength of Masonry Flat and should opt for the easy cleaning strengths in oil-based paint.

Q: What product should you use to paint your brick if it’s already been painted?

Although we love Romabio Masonry Flat for virgin brick, there are times when clients want the desirable soft matte finish on previous painted brick. If that’s the case, then we use the Romabio Bonding Primer. Clean the brick, apply the primer, then paint that beautiful Masonry Flat finish!

Q: Can you talk about the importance of bricks breathing? I heard that it’s bad for brick to be painted.

Brick “breathing” essentially means that porous bricks need to move moisture and adapt with temperatures. All homes (by architectural definitions) should breathe. When it can’t permeate moisture there is risk for the brick to deteriorate or in most cases for the paint finish to chip and peel. Masonry flat doesn’t hinder the breathing of the brick. Its composition makes this choice perfect for brick as it’s just like painting brick with brick.

Q: Is there a best time of year to paint?
The manufacturer recommends painting can happen between 50-90 degrees. We recommend cooler weather during spring and fall when it can be a joy to work outside. For DIYers, consider hosting a paint party with close friends. Work in the morning then grill out in the afternoon for a fun-filled workday with community. Speaking from personal experience, this is a great way to foster friendships and create a beautiful home.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for finding a pro familiar with Romabio?

Yes, Romabio has request form to help you find a pro here. They will gladly share recommended pros in your area. When there isn’t a familiar pro in your area, then we recommend reaching out to your local Benjamin Moore. Since they supply some of the best paints, most of the best pros source their products. Simply call and ask for some of their best painter pros that regularly shop there and ask for a bid. You can send them the following links so they can see just how easy it is to use Masonry Flat. After the brick is damp and the product is thinned down on site, it paints just like regular paint.

Q. What if I want to use a different color than the Young House Love color collection?

You can find a local supplier here or order from Romabio directly here, then it’s possible to get custom color matches. It might just take longer to secure product compared to an easy click on Amazon.

Q. Are there any special tools I need to use Romabio Masonry Flat?

Yes, but they are simple to purchase or even rent as a DIYer. Join us for a more detailed DIY blog post coming this spring. If you need info sooner, you can read through the manufacturer’s detailed instructions here.

Q: Can you paint vinyl, wood or aluminum siding? What else can you paint besides brick? Can you use Romabio on stucco?

Masonry Flat is for virgin masonry surfaces: brick, stone, and cement-based siding like Hardie board. As mentioned earlier, if primed with Romabio’s bonding primer, it can go over most surfaces. When we paint homes, we typically source Romabio for the brick and paint from Benjamin Moore.

Here are are a few questions for Elsie!

Q: I like how you always paint your homes, but do you feel bad for the next owner?

Absolutely not. None of the homes we have have been historic and painted houses are very popular in our area. It may be different in other parts of the country, but in our area painting our house will make your house sell faster and may add value as well (it always has for us).

I would not paint historic brick or stone, but in the case of our 1990s house, I think it was a major improvement and helped it look a lot nicer. Our neighbors immediately came over to tell us how much better it looked.

Q: What house colors do you like besides white?

I love dark houses for other people, it’s just not “me” as much. Black and nearly black shades of green are nice. It looks especially good on ’80s-era houses and small bungalows, I think. On (wood siding) historic homes, I also LOVE colors—they do so well in Charleston. Nothing makes my heart skip like a pastel house. It’s super charming … Charleston and New Orleans are my favorite U.S. cities for just this reason. The quirky house choices are pure magic. I also think Limewash is pretty. But my personal true love is a warm white painted brick. It’s so clean and fresh and feels like home for me.

Q: Why did you go for mineral paint this time when you used regular paint in the past?

When we painted our first house, I didn’t know about the mineral paint yet. When we painted our second house, we were actually already booked with Lance, but because of Covid and our choice to move quickly, I switched to a local painter who had never used Romabio before, so we stuck with what he felt comfortable with. Lance was OK with keeping our deposit and pivoting our timeline to work with our move, which was really cool of him. I don’t think the paints we used on those homes are “bad” at all in terms of longevity. That said, this product is more earth friendly (and 100% non-toxic), so I am glad we finally got to use it. The other thing I really like about it is it has a nice matte finish with no shine at all.

Q: Are you changing the light, adding shutters or adding any accent colors?

Yes, I am planning to swap the light fixture to something gold. It took me a long time to find something that wasn’t too modern, wasn’t too farmhouse, wasn’t too mid-century … but I finally found it.

As far as shutters, I need to consult with an expert. Our window sizes are irregular (all different), so I am thinking no, but I’m open to it. I have a very clear vision of how to modernize and personalize the back area around the pool, but the front is pretty confusing to me. I know we still have a lot to do and need to fully address the landscaping and possibly some of the windows to bring it up to its full potential. Tell me what you think!

As far as accent colors, I don’t think so. But we do have some wooden gates in the back and a balcony rail that are currently black. I have to choose whether to go white with those or possibly a color like pink or green.

Q: How did you go about choosing the shade of white?

One of my hobbies (especially during Covid times) is driving around looking at houses. There are SO many houses painted white in our area. I learned that untinted white is too bright, it can be blinding and harsh. But, I’ve also seen houses that go too gray or beige and end up looking dingy, which is not ideal either. We chose Richmond White because our friends John and Sherry had used it, so I knew it looked great on their home. It reads as true white to the eye, but when you actually compare it to TRUE white like a piece of blank printer paper, you see that the tone is actually quite off-white with green undertones. Lance said the green undertones really help the white paint blend with nature. We have a TON of trees around our home and looks really great. So basically, I think this is the brightest I would personally go to get that “true white” look.

Thanks so much for reading!!!!

Lance and his crew did a fabulous job on our house! I always enjoy following his Instagram account where he is constantly sharing his beautiful limewash and plaster finishes. He’s a good follow, check out some of his other recent plaster projects: one, two, three. Be sure to follow Classic Finishes on IG for lots of paint and plaster inspiration!

Credits // Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Amber Kelly. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • Hi Elsie, thanks for talking about environmentally friendly paint! I run a small painting company, (https://605primetimepainting.com/) and like telling people that our products are toxic-free and environmentally free, I think it’s super important for us to take care of the planet! Thanks for sharing this post!

  • Love this! It looks so good. We just bought our first house (!!) and it’s so ugly on the outside (80s beige stucco with embellishments–we are in Southern California). It feels overwhelming to think about how to modernize it!

    • This is awesome info! The house looks incredible! What is the brand and name of the paint color on the front door? Thank you!

  • This was cool to read about, thank you for sharing! Other than the content, I really enjoyed the tone of Lance’s Q&A. I think his love for the work he does and commitment to sustainable options really shines through (:

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